introduction by tom johnson
Animal Flag’s new album, Void Ripper, is set to be released on April 13th, arriving via Flower Girl Records, the new label from Sorority Noise’s Cam Boucher. Making good on such names, the Boston quartet’s new record is a meaty and muscular bout of rock and roll, the whole thing tinged with just enough nostalgia and underlying melancholy to make it all the more engaging and compelling.
Latest track “Fair” is indicative of such tropes, offering a wholesome six-minutes that melds huge slabs of guitar and hearty vocals in to one swirling mass of energy, a substantial stretch of noise that ebbs and flows, rises and falls, as it traverses it’s way through the surrounding mire. Informed by songwriter Matthew Politoski’s own journey, through an evangelical upbringing and the subsequent fallout, Void Ripper promises to be one of the year’s most strikingly personal documents.
The emphatic new single is streaming below for you right now, ahead of next week’s album release, and we also spoke to the band for a quick-fire Q&A to find out a bit more about the inspiration that lies behind their own work. Check it out:
What was the last record you bought and was it any good?
Matthew: ‘Life After Youth’ by Land of Talk is the last record I bought and yes it’s extremely good. Elizabeth Powell is a melodic genius!
Alex: Oso Oso’s ‘The Yunahon Mixtape’ is the last record I purchased. Modern day Third Eye Blind in the best way possible.
Zach: I bought a copy of ‘Songs for a Blue Guitar’ by Red House Painters a few weeks ago at the record store down the street from my house. It’s one of my favorite records so I definitely think it’s good.
What was the last live show you saw that blew you away?
Matthew: Zach and I went to go see Amenra, Converge, & Neurosis at the Royale in Boston last year. (Zach actually bought me a ticket for my birthday <3) It was incredible. Neurosis’s set put me into a trance-like state. It was so loud that I truly felt blown away in every sense.
Sai: We got to see Chance the Rapper last summer when we were on our full US tour and it was this crazy affirming moment for me where I was locked into a performance for an hour and a half, start to finish, fully entranced. After being on the road for almost a month up until that point and seeing someone with that kind of energy, it reminded me that no matter how tiring it is to be on tour, there’s potential to bring it to an audience every single night and it was so sick.
Alex: That Chance The Rapper show was insane. Best day off from tour ever. Also the first time I saw Microwave with Sai and Mateo I was truly blown away.
Zach: In a different sort of “blown away,” I saw Poppy perform in Los Angeles a few months ago completely by accident. It was really wild. Between what was happening on stage and likewise the way the audience reacted, I have never seen another live performance like that.
Favourite album of the last year?
Matthew: My favorite album of 2017 was ‘Capacity’ by Big Thief. Adrianne Lenker is one of the most important songwriters the world has right now. I listen to this album and think “I have so much to learn.”
Sai: A lot of good music came out last year. I think with the way the US election went, it energized people to make some really great art to narrate and touch upon the discord felt in a lot of people’s everyday lives. ‘DAMN.’ by Kendrick Lamar definitely hit a lot of spots for me.
Alex: I think my favorite last year was that Oso Oso record.
Zach: I listened to ‘Life After Youth’ by Land of Talk the most, probably. I’d say that’s tied on my list with the latest Haim album and also ‘4:44’ by Jay-Z.
Favourite album of the last decade?
Matthew: ‘Age of Adz’ by Sufjan Stevens is my favorite album of the last decade. It’s a masterpiece in every way.
Sai: ‘Age of Adz’ is turning 10 in a couple of years…I wasn’t ready for that.
Zach: ‘Skeleton Tree’ by Nick Cave and ‘Benji’ by Sun Kil Moon were two albums that really changed the way I look at making music.
Favourite closing track on any record?
Matthew: This would have to be the closing track of Age of Adz (Sufjan Stevens), ‘Impossible Soul’. It’s 25 minutes of everything I’ve ever wanted from music.
Sai: Might be out of left field, but ‘Something Is Wrong’ by Phantom Planet from their album The Guest has always struck me as the perfect closing track, it’s like two and a half minutes and so potent.
Zach: ‘The Ocean’ by Led Zeppelin
Favourite show you’ve ever played?
We got to open for Thursday, Basement and Touche Amore at the House of Blues in Boston in March of 2017 and it was an incredible experience. It was the most people any of us had ever played to. It was shocking how the energy was so palpable because of the sheer number of people in the room.
Favourite weekend record?
Matthew: On weekends I usually try to listen to music that I’ve never heard before or I just listen to Kanye for two days straight.
Sai: ‘Painted Shut’ by Hop Along, but I’m sure that will change in a few days when ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’ comes out.
Alex: Paramore’s ‘After Laughter’ has been getting me through the weekends lately. That and the early AC/DC records.
What’s the one thing you’d change about the music world if you could?
Sai: Easily more representation of LGBTQ+/POC/non-cishet white men. Everywhere. Across the board. The other thing that I’ve noticed more of recently is that a majority of white male artists are afraid of galvanising their audience and speaking on important issues such as gun control, the #MeToo movement, or acknowledging that they’re a part of power dynamic struggles in the world and music industry, just to name a few things that are important to me personally.
It’s funny to me that a lot of white men have the most power to draw audiences to see their bands/music but then will be silent in every way except for like “Oh, merch is over there.” We know where the merch table is, bro, you’re not the first band I’ve ever seen to have shirts and cassettes. If you have a mic, you have a platform, and if you’re not using it to make people think about the world around them, it’s honestly a waste of my time to see you play. Obviously, this can be done through an artist’s art and music, and that’s cool, but I think there’s something also to be said for not being cryptic about issues when they’re literally killing people outside of the music venue you’re playing in. There’s a way to be thought-provoking without being preachy, and that takes effort that I feel that a lot of dudes aren’t trying to put in outside of Facebook or Twitter or whatever. The majority of people that I’ve seen bring up real life, real-world issues have been non-male identifying and people of color, which I believe is because a) they’re disproportionately affected by these issues and b) they have to have their voices be louder to be heard in the first place. All ranting aside, it’s super disappointing and something I would love to see change.